Can I buy you a coffee sometime? I just want to pick your brain.

That is the worst phrase in the service business industry.

Too many people want to essentially get an hour of consulting for two dollars. It’s tough to say no to these people, but unless we’re 99% sure that they will become paying clients, we have to.

In order to be successful, we must be fierce protectors of our time. We need to spend it on the highest yielding activities. What do those few cups of coffee really cost us? If we spend an hour out having coffee, we lose more than just an hour of profitable activity. If we charge $100 for our consulting fee, now we’re not only out $98 from the coffee, but we also lose another 30-60 minutes in transition and refocus time.

Nobody wants to work for free, but we all want the people we’re hiring to.

When we learn to avoid distractions and focus, we can work less hours, get more accomplished, and be more profitable. Isn’t that why we became entrepreneurs in the first place? Distractions are the enemy of productivity and we’re our own worst enemy. Stop telling yourself the little lies. Many aren’t building a bigger business with social media; they’re building a bigger distraction. They aren’t building a client base one coffee at a time, they’re wasting their time. Sure, coffee and socialization are important, especially for solopreneurs. But limit it and schedule those for times you are already escaping for a break.

Think of your highest return activities. List them in order. Where does brain-picking coffee land?

Prioritize that list and act on it daily. Do your highest yielding activities first, then either work down the list or outsource the low yield activities. If your time is worth $100/hour, start at the bottom and begin outsourcing the low return activities, so you can focus your time on the $100/hr activities. Better still, untie your income from time (but that’s a whole other post).

I’ve interviewed over 35 very successful entrepreneurs and one thing I have learned; the more successful the person, the harder it is to get their time. Most people don’t value their time accordingly. Many people spend their time, few invest it, and the vast majority wastes it. When you don’t value your time, don’t expect anyone else to. Don’t let others control your time. Be in charge. Take a stand.

Time is our only non-replenishable commodity. Treat it as such. Start valuing it and for dog’s sake, stop wasting it.

How do you feel when people ask to “pick your brain”? Have any tips for handling this type of request? Do you make them buy you lunch to make it worth your time? Please share in the comments below!